Posted by : Shoumik Das Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tensions are rising in Assam’s border district of Karimganj amidst reports of pieces of beef being recovered from the Sitala Mata Mandir in the Badarpur area on the night of August 28. Coming close on the heels of similar troubles in the Cachar district, it appears that the entire Barak Valley, a sensitive region bordering Bangladesh, is being inflamed in a systematic manner by unknown forces, whose motives have so far not been discerned.
On the night of August 25, tensions rose sharply in the Silchar town of Cachar following the discovery of animal meat in three temples in the Rangpur area. Nearly 30 persons, including policemen, were injured in violence that followed. The State Government quickly put the Army on alert in all the three Barak Valley districts, i.e. Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj as these are regarded as communally sensitive areas.
Despite the precaution, the incident in Sitala Mata Mandir occurred. Local residents informed this writer on telephone that unidentified miscreants placed pieces of meat inside the Narshing Mandir, Gourio Math and Siva Mandir at around 8.30 pm.It appears to be a deliberate attempt to disrupt communal harmony ahead of the forthcoming Ganapati festival. The residents allege that the meat comprised beef pieces. But on August 28, district collector (Cachar) Gokul Mohan Hazarika insisted that the items were goat meat, a statement backed by Inspector General SN Singh, who reportedly claimed this to be the forensic finding of the animal bones recovered from the Narshing Mandir. Locals, however, remained skeptical and pointed out that the meat pieces recovered from the two other temples were taken away by the police, after which there was no mention of them again. It is still not clear how the meat appeared on the temple precincts.
As news of the ‘desecration’ of the temples spread, a 2500-strong crowd, mostly youth, gathered and began to obstruct traffic. The crowd blocked NH-53 by burning tyres and other flammable materials. Cachar Superintendent of Police, Diganta Bora, rushed a contingent of police and CRPF to the other side of Barak river in order to clear the highway, but this resulted in clashes with the irate mob which pelted stones at the security forces. Two police vehicles were set on fire.
This resulted in police resorting to batons and lathi-charge, tear gas and firing of blanks to disperse the mob. The Cachar SP was injured in the melee, but was discharged from hospital after treatment. Other injured were admitted to Silchar Medical College Hospital. A part of the crowd managed to reach the Office Para locality which houses key Government offices, and damaged a number of vehicles parked there. A Mizoram-bound truck was set on fire in Ashram Road locality of the town on the night of August 25.
The situation was finally brought under control around midnight, and the highway cleared. The Cachar district administration nevertheless put the Army on alert, deployed large contingents of the Army and CRPF jawans at sensitive spots, and imposed prohibitory orders across the district as a precautionary measure. Seven people have so far been arrested in connection with the violence. Most educational institutions, shops and business establishments in the town remained closed, but no fresh violence was reported from anywhere in the district, according to the Police. The Cachar Collector convened an all-party meeting in his office on August 26 to discuss the situation and appealed to people to maintain communal harmony and abstain from spreading rumours.
But tensions continue to simmer beneath the surface as local leaders allege that instead of finding the culprits behind thedesecration of the temples, it is Hindu devotees who are victims of religious assault who are being harassed, and Hindu protestors who are being taken away by the Police for questioning. Local grievances have been aggravated by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi blaming the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for the violence, an allegation stoutly denied by VHP’s North-east region secretary Abhijit Deka who charged that Gogoi has lost his mental balance. Though neither side has alleged a Bangladesh-ISI hand in the provocation, the administration has geared up security in the entire Barak Valley where the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Congress enjoy equal support.
Source : Niti Central

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